Please join us for the final seminar in our Classics Postgraduate Series this year with a paper that will be presented by Giacinto Falco from the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa. Please see below for the abstract. Everyone is invited to join us for this talk and for the pub afterwards.
Gift-giving, reciprocity, law and trust in Athenian banking transactions
In reading the main sources concerning Athenian banking transactions, one cannot but notice that orators often avail themselves of, or fleetingly but effectively refer to, a series of concepts such as χάρις, φιλανθρωπία, φιλία and above all δῶρον. All these constitute the values on which the relationships between bankers and clients were based, and reveal the deep anthropological substrate on which banking settlements rested. However, the realm of the Athenian bank has been thus far either studied from an exclusively economic point of view (e.g. by Hasebroek or Bogaert) or even misunderstood because of primitivist assumptions preventing scholars such as Millet or Christ from grasping, firstly, the anthropological principles (e.g. reciprocity, honour and gift-giving) underpinning banking relationships, and, secondly, the legal and institutional environment enclosing banking operations.
Hence, my paper pursues a twofold objective. The first is to reconsider some significant Athenian sources (e. g. Dem. 36, 45, 52; Isocrates' Trapeziticus and above all Dem. 49, 1-6) to explain the relationship between bankers and clients in the light of the above mentioned anthropological principles, codified by scholars such as Sahlins and Mauss. The second objective is to use the new paradigm stemming from NIE (New Institutional Economy) to show that the anthropological milieu enclosing and regulating Athenian banking transactions was in turn enclosed and regulated by another and broader one: that of law and institutions. The link between these two milieux is a concept which has only recently been taken into consideration by scholars such as E. M. Harris and Faraguna: πίστις.